How realistic is it to build a seven figure business? (And why coaches are lying to you)

Over the past 11 years, we’ve seen lots of bold earnings claims and many incredible promises made by business coaches.

It started out with six-figure boasts (we even wrote an article about the six-figure con), but his has evolved today to claims that people are running ‘multiple seven-figure’ businesses and even, incredibly, eight figures! These same people then promise to teach you how to do the same if you pay to join their courses, programmes and academies.

But how true are these claims? And how realistic is it to build a six or even seven figure business? Let’s find out by looking at official data.

Only 2% of self-employed people earn six figures

A six figure income is £100,000 and according to government data, just 4% of the UK population makes £100,000 or more.

If you work for yourself, it’s even harder to reach that magic six-figure goal: data from HRMC shows that just 2% of people who are self-employed earn more than £100,000.

This means, in order to to make six figures a year as someone who is self-employed, you would need to earn more than 98% of other people in the UK who work for themselves. So while it’s not impossible to earn six figures a year as a freelancer or small business owner, it’s not easy and it is statistically unlikely.

Remember this the next time you are tempted by social media posts and ads making these kind of promises and offers:

Randomly generated screenshot from Google image search of ‘six figure coaching women’

Only 4% of all UK businesses turn over seven figures

And what about those seven-figure business boasts? Sadly, they’re usually just as fanciful.

Only 4% of all UK businesses ever reach the stage where they turn over £1 million, and just 0.4% get to the £10m mark (the magical ‘eight figures’).

It takes time to grow a business to that size too. The average growth rate for a small business is between 7-8%, and even using the higher figure it would take several years to reach the £1 million turnover mark.

According to HMRC data, of all 2,726,830 VAT or PAYE businesses in the UK, in 2023 just 280,115 turned over more than £1 million in 2023. That’s 10%. And that is not 10% of all businesses remember – just businesses who either are VAT registered or whom employ people.

If we exclude large businesses like Tesco and Cadbury, and focus only on businesses turning over between £1 and £2 million a year, the percentage shrinks to 4.5%:

So the likelihood that a business coach trying to sell you their programme is actually making the seven figures they may claim, let alone eight, is very small.

Your business is more likely to fail than make six figures

To put their claims into the starkest possible contrast to the truth, let’s look at some business success facts. According to Experian, around 4% of new businesses will cease trading by the end of their first year, 34% by the end of their second year, and 50% will fail within three years of opening.

This means:

  • You have a 2% chance of earning over £100,000 if you work for yourself, and a 4% chance of your business failing within 12 months.
  • And you have a 4% chance of ever turning over more than £1 million, and a 50% chance of your business closing within five years.

As you can see, you are statistically more likely to fail than get rich.

Some of these business coaches are actually in DEBT

We’ve spent several years investigating and debunking claims of lottery-style earnings from MLM representatives (you can read some of their lies here). And it’s depressing reading the same kind of rubbish in the business coaching world.

As an example, here are some claims made by one business coach on social media just this year:

  • “Over the past few years I’ve made £5 million”
  • “This was the decision that led me to make over 7 figures”
  • “I’ve made over 7 figures delivering courses online and now I’m helping others do the same”

However, even just a quick look at this coach’s business accounts on Companies House shows these claims are not true. In fact, their coaching training business currently OWES £99,000 in bank overdrafts and other loans.

Here’s another claim by a different (ex-MLM) business coach:

As you can see, this woman claims to be “an 8 figure business coach” and to be BS free, which is ironic considering that her business accounts don’t reflect her claims. Here’s what the latest accounts of her business shows it owes:

The same accounts show that her business’ liabilities are greater than its assets. In accounting terms, this means her company is insolvent. Hardly something you would expect of an “an 8 figure business coach”, is it?

Why do we have a problem with these claims?

Generally we don’t have a problem with how much or little another business or person makes, as long as it was made ethically. It is their business, literally. But what we DO have a problem with, is using income claims as a sales tool to lure people in. Especially if those income claims are fake.

And that is exactly what these coaches are doing.

They are trying to tell you: “Look, I am rich! And if you hire me or buy my course, I will show you how to get rich too.”

But here is the truth: as you can see from the statistics we shared above, there is a very strong chance a coach making wild income claims is lying to you about their success.

The vast majority of coaches haven’t made millions, or anywhere near it. In fact, many (like the coaches who made the claims above) actually owe money – usually to pay for the mastermind group they are learning their sales tactics from, or the large overheads that come from applying those tactics.

The tiny percentage who have turned over a significant amount are extreme outliers. And the chances that you too are such an extreme outlier that you can be in the 2% of self-employed people who earn over £100,00 a year, or 4% of businesses who turn over more than £1 million a year are tiny.

There’s about as much likelihood of you getting to the top of a pyramid scheme earnings table (which is ironic, as several business coaches today have been in MLMs).

If you pay these coaches to learn their wealth secrets, you are more likely to end up in debt than a millionaire. They cannot teach you because they either have not done it themselves, or if they have, it’s from selling the lie to people like you.

Why these people and their claims are so damaging

Why do we feel so passionately about this subject? Because the financial and emotional impact caused by these lies can be damaging.

Here’s a message we received from one reader worried about a friend who had joined a programme run by the coach who made the claim above that she’d made £5 million over the past few years:

“She has spent tens of thousands of pounds and is writing and running courses for other women, even though it is an area that normally requires years of research and study. I see all the copy and paste profiles of her “friends” and the misinformation that is churned out by them, and it worries me what it is doing to their bank balances as well as mental health.

“My friend appears to have loads of clients paying thousands of pounds to her, but they are mainly freebies given away and she has taken on a job in marketing to keep afloat.”

We’ve also found many reviews online where women claim they were promised “a better life, make more money, be successful”, only to “realise it’s all a big con.”

Often, by the time women discover they have been sold a false dream, it’s too late. They’ve paid the money (or committed to a payment plan) and signed a contract. And the contract usually means that not only does the coach not have to refund you, but you need to continue paying them and are not allowed to speak out. If you cancel future payments, these coaches can and do take you to court.

The damage to the women’s finances and mental health is significant. They speak about marriage breakdowns and even losing their homes. Again, sadly, this to all too reminiscent of the kind of damage that can be caused by getting too deep into an MLM.

So if you are looking for help starting or growing a business, or would like to train to be a coach, be very wary about anyone making claims about their own income. As you now know, there’s a strong likelihood they are lying. And even if they aren’t, the chances are you will not be able to replicate their success.

Unlike their fake boasts, the real statistics don’t lie.

Read more about coaching scams

You can read more insight into coaching, and the red flags to look out for in these articles:

Photo by Julia Potter